The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Benefits of pop-up retail

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Bill Reagan (Photo courtesy Alexandria Small Business Development Center)
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By Bill Reagan

You no doubt are hearing more about pop-ups, and for good reason.
It’s a trend that isn’t new but is really catching on because it offers win/wins for everyone.

Pop-up retail began to appear in the 90s in the world’s major cities.
The trend spread in the 2000s and can now be found in one form or another in almost every community. Pop-ups come in every shape and size and are ideal for products from fashion to tech gadgets to art to makers to food.

Early versions saw major retailers clearing space in their stores for outside vendors to set up specialty shops. Sometimes they held receptions,
cocktail parties or festivals to highlight a new product line or designer. Years ago, Target rented a boat at a New York pier for a holiday pop-up, and you’ve likely noticed major furnishings retailers using temporary shops for floor sample sales.

Most of us are familiar with popups around the holidays. Christmas markets and fireworks stands have been around for years. Halloween shops will appear in a couple of months, and ugly Christmas sweater shops are becoming icons for holiday fun and quirkiness.

Clever retailers always find ways to monetize holidays, festivals, anniversaries and the spectrum of annual and seasonal occasions. Pop-ups broaden those opportunities.

For vendors, makers and artists, pop-ups are an easier and more affordable way to test a concept or product and determine whether there is a viable market. If their items sell, they can consider options for expanded pop-ups or perhaps moving into brick and mortar.

Pop-ups enable them to fine-tune their approach and make less expensive adjustments because of the manageable scale. If their approach falls flat, their risk was minimized and they can more affordably retool and come back to try again.

The community also benefits. Fewer vacant storefronts convey greater vitality, and the increased foot traffic helps neighboring stores. The community and its consumers also get to experience brands and approaches they might otherwise never know.

Landlords have much to gain from popups. They’re not only a way to monetize vacant space, but also exposes their real estate to
prospective permanent tenants. Even if the space is slated for development or awaiting an incoming tenant, a popup could bring in extra revenue and be tailored to the circumstances.

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership is proactively promoting pop-ups to add vibrancy and strengthen the local economy. Their pop-up website welcomes vendors searching for space and provides landlords templates for pop-up leases and a way to list their space. See https:// growalx.com/popup/. AEDP also welcomes community suggestions regarding pop-ups.

AEDP and the Small Business Development Center are presenting a pop-up retail workshop on Aug. 15 that will highlight opportunities and discuss how to approach the pop-up process.

There’s magic in pop-ups because we all enjoy being part of something that’s special and unique, and because it’s a fleeting experience we get a greater sense of urgency. Ideally, we can look forward to more pop-up excitement in Alexandria.

The writer is the executive director of Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center.

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